When people talked about the top trade assets that the Montreal Canadiens had, Evgenii Dadonov seldom made the list. The forward was on an expiring contract and an upcoming unrestricted free agent, but his slow start to the season made it hard to picture much value coming back in a trade.
Reports had a potential mid- or late-round pick coming back for the forward. Instead, the Canadiens acquired forward Denis Gurianov.
Gurianov is still only 25 years old, and was Dallas’s first-round pick (12th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has scored 20 goals in a season in the NHL, and his offensive potential may give him some runway with the Canadiens. As far as the difference between him and a later draft pick, it seems like an easy win for the Canadiens.
It’s a trade that works out for Dallas as well. They were unlikely to qualify him because of their cap situation and the role he was playing. They get Dadonov, who may fit in to what they want better in their bottom-six.
Gurianov isn’t the first reclamation project that the Canadiens have acquired under the new management team, and they haven’t been shy to trade for or draft players that their development team feels they could work with.
So let’s take a closer look at the forward the Canadiens acquired.
There’s no question his calling card is his offence, and when you aren’t scoring like Gurianov hasn’t (two goals, seven assists in 43 games with Dallas this season), it takes away a lot of the value you bring.
A quick look at Gurianov’s game tape shows you what he can bring: speed down the wing, and a love for shooting the puck. Entering the season, he projected as a serviceable scorer.
Gurianov's projection card entering the season gives a glance at what offensive upside might still be there. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/QeLmR3KCym— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 26, 2023
This shows that, offensively, he is a generator. He shoots more than most players, but also creates chances. He’s a solid power-play asset as well. Don’t look for him to be a playmaker, but he’s solid off of the rush and entering the zone.
He is someone who may need help in creating offence, something he wasn’t really getting in Dallas’s bottom six. He can jump into a line with, say, Nick Suzuki, or Jesse Ylönen, and find an offensive partner to create more. He also should be expected to step right in on the power play.
Denis Gurianov, acquired by MTL, is a speedy shoot-first depth forward with some offensive skill (especially when it comes to creating shots) that hasn't really translated recently. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/WfKbAEgBo6— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) February 26, 2023
There’s no guarantee that the team will be able to unlock Gurianov’s potential, but the cost to try to see was low. Dadonov was never coming back to the Canadiens after this season. There are several first-round picks that have been rumoured to be connected to the team lately, including Vitali Kravtsov and Jesse Puljujärvi. Gurianov is more established (and older) than Kravtsov and has a less well-rounded game than Puljujärvi, but there is still a lot to like about the potential of this move.
At the end of the season, the Canadiens will have to choose whether to qualify him at close to $3 million, which is not an insignificant amount of money, but if he can fit into the team’s middle-six (or even if he’s a potential option on the top line), Hughes could opt to qualify him and keep him in the fold.
While Dallas was trying to focus on Gurianov’s defensive game, in Montreal he will simply be asked to be himself and try to score. Some players have difficulty adjusting to Martin St-Louis’s system while other players can thrive, and we’ll find out which type of player he is.
The cost for this gamble was low, but the potential reward is quite high, and it’s the kind of move that a rebuilding team should make with its expiring assets.